Yo-Yo Tax Week

photo: les delices d'aphrodite

A tidy bistro near the Rue Mouffetard.

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Paris:- Sunday, 29. August 1999:- For the French, July greets them with the annual rises in public transport fares and other nuisance items, far too many to mention here. This is how the summer season starts - with less money to spend on necessities such as suntan oil and pink wine.

Last week, at the end of summer, the few French paying attention were probably shocked - as I was! - to read about all the surprise tax hikes awaiting them.

Most people pay their income taxes, in thirds rather than monthly. The first two thirds are based on the before-previous year's assessed taxes, and the third third - due in mid-mid-September for many - is rounded up or down, based on the previous year's accessed taxes, which have been finally figured out. It is a very logical French system.

The big 'but' is during this year, the finance ministry has been fiddling with the tax code - these fine adjustments - andphoto: bistro royal mirabel the result is, just about everybody except the totally destitute will be paying a greater third third than anticipated. Right at the time when everybody is broke from summer excesses of pink wine and plunged into the middle of the expensive return of the kids to schools.

We had three days to digest this before the very same finance ministry let it be known that it has a sort of a surplus - business is picking up, people are getting jobs; so more money has been collected. Lots more.

At week's end, all the talk is about what to 'do' with this surplus. It does not occur to anybody to think the government is actually going to give any money back - no! - the question is how to distribute the surplus - by maybe reducing taxes, sometime in the future, usually.

More tax revenue is collected from value-added tax than from tax on incomes in France. The TVA rate for most items is a stunning 20.6 percent, and everybody pays it, even the totally destitute and the dead.

Therefore the finance ministry has decided to reduce the TVA on home improvement materials and services. This is clever; it promotes improving the lodgement structure of France and at the same time is a 'carrot' of persuasion to have the work done by professionals, rather than by weekend 'noire' - or black - workers.

People will fix up their places and tradesmen will get more business, and the whole home building and renovation industry will take off - thus producing more tax revenues - but with less pain.

Fine. Now what about that looming stiff third third that hasn't gone away?

Meanwhile, Out In the Country

Farmers are still angry in France. After many demonstrations about being paid less for fruit than it costs to grow, somebody thought up the brilliant idea of displaying double price tags.

In fruit and veg sales areas, the price the producer has received is now displayed beside the price the supermarket wants the customer to pay. A supermarket near me also displaysphoto: le jardin de la mouff the amount it pays to distributors or wholesalers; making a total of three prices.

The first price does not indicate whether the farmer has sold at a profit or loss. The second is what you pay, so what do you learn?

Mouffetard bistro 'Le Jardin de la Mouff.'

Farmers agreed to this measure but the farmers are still angry in France for the simple reason that they are still getting less than what their produce costs, regardless of all the price tags.

On one hand, subsidizing farmers is a no-no. We had that and it got us butter mountains and wine lakes. On the other hand, it is illegal - in France at least - to sell goods or services for less than cost.

Farmers are still blocking highways and dumping fruit on adinistration buildings and having demos inside supermarkets, and some of them are going to jail for it. If you ask me, I don't know how much TVA is on fruit.

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